Give Up Ideas Of A Military Solution
President Mahinda Rajapakse's strategy of consolidating the parliamentary strength of the SLFP at the expense of the UNP has boomeranged viciously on himself and his party as evident from last week's developments both in and outside parliament. Two weeks ago it appeared that he had staged a political coup when 18 UNPers crossed over to the SLFP adding on to his parliamentary strength. With SLMC members who too joined the government ranks in addition to other minor parties already in government the President claimed he had a parliamentary majority even without the JVP.
But now it appears that he is facing a revolt within his own ranks. With the support of only 120 MPs the President must now realise he has unnecessarily stirred a hornet's nest at the cost of the MoU with the UNP as well since all it takes is for eight MPs to cross the floor of the House for him to be once again reduced to a minority government.
On Thursday he told newly appointed electoral organisers of his party that he would not succumb to any pressure group within the SLFP and reiterated the necessity for discipline within the party. He stressed that no one would be permitted to undermine the party and that he would not prevent disgruntled elements from quitting.
The previous day he had told a meeting of party seniors that the doors were wide open for anyone who disagreed with the party policies to leave while those who accepted the policies were welcome. The President said he will not tolerate any conspiracy within the SLFP, rich coming from the man who precipitated the conspiracy within the UNP.
The Executive President and Party Leader thus appears to be helpless in curbing the revolt as some front-liners of the party are openly challenging his decision to take in the rebel UNPers and querying the benefits the move can bring to the SLFP. The leaders of the revolt are Mangala Samaraweera and Anura Bandaranaike while others like Party Secretary Maithripala Sirisena and Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi have also been making public criticisms of the move.
They have been conspicuous by their absence at public functions such as the Independence Day parade and are reported to be absent at important party meeting as well. In a bid to win Sirisena over the President had in the allocation of ministerial subjects added a few extras when it came to gazetting, thereby indicating he was succumbing to the pressure.
Thursday's speech in parliament by Anura Bandaranaike was an open declaration that there was a conspiracy to oust him and his sister, Chandrika Kumaratunga from the party, which the conspirators he said would not be able to achieve, it being a party founded by his father and which his mother was leader and had been prime minister many a time while his sister had been elected president twice. He had been in parliament for 30 years. This was virtually open defiance of the party leadership.
Earlier Mangala Samaraweera had written a scathing letter attacking the decision of President Rajapakse to accept the rebel UNPers to the party and giving them ministerial portfolios. He pointed out to deep dissatisfaction among party members, which he said was not surfacing due the nature of the executive presidency.
When this 'Mango Group' will enlarge with the fruit season now commencing is to be seen but the SLFP government seems to be now quite unsure of itself as compared to what it was a few weeks ago.
The JVP guns are in full blast and last week JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe alleged that the move to take in UNP members to the government was an attempt to cover up corruption allegations within the government. It does appear that the point of permanent departure of the SLFP from their former comrades is now approaching.
The inclusion of Champika Ranawaka of the JHU in cabinet is bound to destabilise it much further. This is tantamount to adding incendiary stuff to an already explosive and heated mixture. How President Rajapakse hopes to reconcile the opinions of the JHU with the rebel UNPers who had committed themselves to a very liberal programme to solve the all important north east issue boggles the imagination of one and all.
A line of thinking that explains the nonsensical moves of President Rajapakse is that he wants to please one and all by agreeing to all proposals which he has not the foggiest idea of implementing. Meanwhile he is talking peace and making his military moves against the LTTE. Since he has been somewhat successful so far in these military operations, it may inspire him to go for a military solution but readings from the international scene are not that propitious for a military solution even though astrological predictions may say so.
Sri Lanka in the past few months has been subject to allegations of human rights violations in the international scene. The virtual abandonment of the Ceasefire Agreement and full scale military clashes between government security forces and the LTTE cadres after a near three-year period of quiescence are causing much concern. The departing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed his concerns shortly before leaving office and now the UN is taking up the issue. The Allan Rock report on child recruitment was to be taken up before the UN Security Council on Friday.
The latest report from Washington says that a group of 38 US Congressmen - 32 Democrats and six Republicans - have written to President Bush calling for the appointment of a special envoy of the United States for Sri Lanka, having direct access to him as well as the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - in view of the deteriorating situation here. This is indeed an ominous sign not only for President Rajapakse and his government but the entire country as well. Internationalisation of a national issue and having big powers breathing down our neck is by no means what a country would desire. It could be disastrous.
Sri Lanka has during the past many years been fortunate in having conservative, strictly anti- terrorist American administrations such as that of George Bush. They have not been sympathetic towards the LTTE but the Democrats who are more liberal and sympathetic towards human rights, now in control of Congress could well turn tables against the Sri Lankan government especially in the backdrop of her failure to address the human rights issues as well as the failure to get the peace process back on track.
A good example of this is the UN appointed Special Envoy Marti Ahtisari, a former president of Finland who had presented a plan for Kosovo's independence to a six-nation group of America, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. According to The Economist of February 3, Ahtisari has drawn up a plan to supervise independence to Kosova similar to the status Bosnia was given in 1995.
The ultimate authority for Kosovo would be transferred from the UN to a special representative of the 'international community' and Kosovo would be able to join international organisations. The majority in Kosovo are Albanians who want separation and the rest Serbians who do not want separation including neighbouring Serbia. Such officials could come out with proposals not giving a damn to the thinking of the people, their history or culture. Ahtisari has been one of those whose views had been sought by peace advisors of Chandrika Kumaratunga but was vehemently opposed by the then Foreign Minister Kadirgamar who had stalled that move.
If the President and his brothers have dreams of military victory they should realise that this would not be possible in today's world if human rights of minorities are involved. The Blair Doctrine announced during the Balkans war is that intervention in sovereign states is permissible in the defence of human rights and that is now acceptable to the 'international community.' Of course this is applicable particularly if the countries are small and weak such as Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Sudan and Ethiopia. Its no use protesting because that's the way the world conducts its affairs.
Ranil Wickremesinghe's strategy, however long it may take, of playing ball with the international community and building a 'safety net' against terrorists is a preferable move than direct military action that results in human rights violations. But then again when brawn as opposed to brain rules the day, not much hope can be placed on seeing the bigger picture.